Sewanee: School of Theology Theses 2013


Recent Submissions

Now showing 1 - 5 of 7
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    Making Meaning of Sexual Violence Against Women in Ancient Christian Sacred Literature
    (2014-01-20) Babb, Jeannie K.
    Sexual violence against women appears in many genres of literature sacred to ancient Christianity, from foundational myths in Genesis through apocalyptic symbolism in the Revelation, and on into the martyr stories used liturgically by the church. These passages have damaged women, men, church, and society when taken as normative or prescriptive passages about human behavior. Recontextualizing sexual violence against women as a literary trope allows us to consider its symbolic meaning in the text, while resisting that presumption that male domination and sexual violence are part of God’s plan for the church. This project involved analyzing selected passages featuring sexual violence against women, classifying the stories by genre, and considering the purpose of sexual violence in each text. Modern scholarship was considered along with analysis of the stories and comparison within and among the genres. Although each genre uses sexual violence against women differently, its meaning remains fairly consistent for a given genre. In the foundational myths of Genesis, rape serves an etiological or ethnological purpose, establishing relationships between tribes. Rape stories in Judges and 2 Samuel play off earlier use of sexual violence, but deploy it to advance political messages. In prophetic and apocalyptic literature, political entities are represented as women and threatened with sexual violence. In one variation (known as the marriage metaphor), Israel is depicted as the wayward wife of God whose downfall is the result of being unfaithful. In another version, a foreign city is feminized and raped. The virgin birth story uses symbols and wording taken from Greek romantic rape scenes, which use sexual violence to depict a great man as having a divine origin. In ascetic literature, sexual violence serves to de-sex the woman in order to make her holy. In accounts of martyrdom, persecutors use sexual violence to defeminize the woman prior to her death. In the ascetic bios, the woman is a living martyr who must de-sex herself through transvestitism, lifelong seclusion, or suicide—often with sexual violence as an added incentive to be more masculine than feminine. Recognizing the symbolism in these literary tropes is valuable to everyone who reads, studies, teaches, or meditates on these passages. Sexual violence in sacred literature subjects real, living women to danger when its presence in the text is misunderstood. Liturgy and Bible study pull ancient attitudes about sexual violence into the present, legitimizing its presence and reinforcing damaging ideas about victims of sexual violence. Understanding the purpose of its presence in a particular text not only helps us interpret the text more accurately, but also helps mitigate this danger by placing literary violence back into a literary context.
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    The Colonial Church and its Legacy and Impact on Colonial Dioceses, Focusing on the Diocese of Southern Virginia: A Family Systems Perspective
    (2014-01-20) Butterworth, Gary W.
    Edwin Friedman writes, “I have been struck by how families, corporations, [churches, synagogues] and other kinds of institutions are constantly trying to cure their own ills through amputations . As a priest ordained in Southern Virginia, I have often thought of this reality and wanted to gain a better understanding of the history of the Church in Virginia and what are the historical reasons for the dysfunction that seems to be in the Diocesan DNA. Here are two initial questions: What impact does the Colonial Church have on the current workings, attitudes, and ecclesial developments of the Diocese of Southern Virginia and could there be particular dimensions of family systems theory— particularly as articulated in the work of Edwin Friedman—that shed light on what appear to be some longstanding dysfunctional patterns that negatively impact the role and office of bishop? It is understood that the American Revolution was an instrumental event in the decline of the established church in early America, and especially in Virginia. However, what else was going on that contributed to the decline? Was it the powerful privileged gentry class that ruled the vestries, the chaotic political situation in England, the inadequate response to evangelicalism, the tie to the monarchy in England, the lack of educated clergy, the lack of bishops in America, a compilation of all of these, or was it something else? This paper attempts to explore a deeper understanding and appreciation of the impact of the Colonial Church and its legacy, and the way in which it continues to manifest itself within the family system of Southern Virginia as well as any diocese with Colonial Church roots. This author believes that this single understanding could well be the most important pre-requisite for an incoming bishop in a Colonial diocese. When such a diocese and their new bishop do not know or understand these deeply rooted patterns, a “secret” stays alive in the system, and it is only a matter of time before it begs to come out and wreak havoc with future generations. ii It is not only necessary to understand the ramifications of living in an institution with roots in the Colonial Church, but just as important is to address how we may be able to usher it out the door.
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    The Holy Spirit in the Ontogeny of the Body of Christ
    (2014-01-20) Marsh, Robert F. Jr.
    This is a proposal to enrich a tried-and-true spiritual gifts workshop typically offered by Episcopal parish clergy for discerning New Testament spiritual gifts that may be seeking expression in parishioners' lives. They are fine as far as they go, but simply do not go far enough. This proposal suggests an introduction that could be used for any spiritual life workshop whether it is for New Testament gifts; theological virtues; character education (cardinal virtues), or centering prayer. All of them need each other for the full spiritual maturation of the Body and bodies of Christ.
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    Mental Illness and Belonging: A Pastor's Inquiry
    (2014-01-20) Tanner, Michael Abbott
    This project consists of qualitative research and analysis that started with the following question: What, from the perspective of people with mental illness makes a church feel welcoming and safe or otherwise? The primary sources of data are recorded and transcribed conversations with twelve people (herein referred to as “consultants”), each of whom lives with a chronic mental illness and is associated with Holy Comforter Church, a mission of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta, along with observations of the researcher. The project rests on the hypothesis that qualitative research into the experiences of people with mental illness can provide pastoral and theological insight to help Holy Comforter and other parishes become more physically, emotionally, socially, and spiritually accessible to people with mental illness. This paper reports key learnings from this research and explores theological and pastoral issues raised by these learnings with the goal of couching practical wisdom for achieving such inclusion within a Christian understanding of God’s work in the world. Over twenty-five years ago, Holy Comforter, a small, urban parish in Atlanta, embarked on a journey toward becoming a safe and welcoming community for people with mental illness. More than half of its regular worshippers are people with mental illness. Most subsist on a small disability check and live in group homes. Since 1997, it has operated a day program for people with mental illness, called the ii Friendship Center. This program serves seventy-five to a hundred people with a variety of activities that support wellness and recovery, including gardening, studio arts, meals, clothes closet, health monitoring, music, yoga, games, and field trips. It is managed by a small professional staff, which coordinates the work of about seventy-five volunteers. The researcher has been Vicar of the parish and Director of the Friendship Center since 2006. Analysis of the conversations reveals that the key issue for the consultants is better understood in terms of belonging, rather than welcome and safety, and prompts this restatement of the research question: What, from the perspective of the consultants, has helped them to feel that they have, or have not, belonged in and to a particular community of faith or to feel that they have been welcome, or not welcome, to belong in a new community? Using primarily the words of the consultants, the report presents a thick description of how belonging or not belonging has felt to the consultants in terms of key factors that have contributed to their sense of belonging or not belonging. Framed as questions that a person with mental illness might ask concerning her relationship with a church, the following key factors affecting whether one feels belonging surface in the conversations: 1. Participation: Am I invited and empowered to participate fully in the life and work of the community? 2. Regard: How does the community regard me and my participation? 3. Understanding: Is the community open to understanding me and my mental illness, or does it yield to the stigma of mental illness?
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    The Gift of Silence: A Renewed Call to Contemporary Pentecostals to the Spiritual Discipline of Silence
    (2014-01-20) Pruitt, Philip Adair
    Pentecostals are known for being vociferous and boisterous in worship, and generally eschew silence. The thesis of this project, The Gift of Silence: a renewed call to contemporary Pentecostals to the spiritual discipline of silence, however, is that the discipline of silence is not antithetical to Pentecostal spirituality. On the contrary, silence has been, and can continue to be an important and indispensable aspect of Pentecostal spirituality. Chapter 1 provides an overview of Pentecostal spirituality, based on Russell P. Spittler’s “five implicit values governing Pentecostal spirituality.” These values are individual experience, oral tradition, otherworldliness, spontaneity, and biblical authority. Discussion focuses on ways in which these five values affect personal and communal life, worship, and prayer in the Pentecostal community. Documents from Pentecostal denominations are cited for authenticity. Chapter 2 addresses the subjects of silence in prayer and worship, citing biblical examples (from both Testaments), Early Church Fathers, and Pentecostal writers from the first half of the 20th century. Chapter 3 issues a call to contemporary Pentecostals to reconsider the spiritual discipline of silence in prayer and worship. It explores the influences of popular contemporary Christian youth culture on contemporary Pentecostal prayer and worship. Then, contemporary Pentecostals are asked to reconsider the spiritual discipline of silence in prayer and worship as a viable and vital aspect of Pentecostal spirituality. Biblical foundations and precedence, practice among early Pentecostals, and deep roots in Early Church spirituality are given as reasons to reconsider the discipline of silence in prayer and worship. Then, encouragement is offered to direct interested Pentecostals toward a better understanding of the discipline of silence. The conclusion gives a brief summary of the project, and restates the thesis. Then suggestions are given for Pentecostals who would like to explore further the spiritual discipline of silence: a suggested bibliography, and suggestions for the personal and corporate practice of silence. A bibliography of sources cited is provided at the end of the project.